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The Blue Mill Tavern Loosemeat Sandwich


  • 1lb of real good ground chuck or 1 lb ground beef round or 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 1tablespoon fat like lard (if meat is round or sirloin) or 1 tablespoon Crisco (if meat is round or sirloin)
  • 2teaspoons salt, just enough to lightly cover bottom of your skillet
  • 1onion, chopped fine
  • 1tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1tablespoon vinegar
  • 1tablespoon sugar
  • water, to cover
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • Get out a cast iron skillet-they are the best for loosemeats-or other kind if you have no iron skillet.
  • Melt fat over medium heat and lightly salt bottom of skillet.
  • Break ground beef up in skillet and start crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon-this is very important-the meat must end up being cooked up into small crumbles.
  • Add chopped onion while browning meat.
  • Keep working with the back of spoon to break up meat.
  • When meat is browned, drain off any fat and return meat to skillet.
  • Add mustard, vinegar, sugar, and just enough water to barely cover meat in the pan.
  • Cook, at a simmer, till water is all cooked out-between 15-20 minutes.
  • Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  • Heat your hamburger buns-they’re traditionally steamed for loosemeats-I like mine toasted lightly-do it the way you like it.
  • When buns are warm, put yellow mustard on them and add some dill pickle slices-I put on lots!
  • *If you start changing this recipe and using things like olive oil for the fat and Dijon or honey mustard for the yellow mustard, you will not get the traditional yummy taste of a loosemeat sandwich.
  • Likewise, don’t add any liquid smoke or Worcestershire sauce.
  • Make them just like this the first time so you can sample the simplicity of this famous Midwestern treat.
  • If you want to start making changes after that by all means do so but I’d like you to taste the original recipe at least once.
  • Serve with homemade potato salad and chips or with my Easy Cheesy Potato recipe.


  • Meowser

    Absolutely fantastic recipe! I haven’t had a loosemeat sandwich since I was a kid, but a strange and elusive yearning for one came over me recently. I decided to chance it and introduce them to my husband and son. It was a risky move, as they hate sloppy joes (as do I) and are a tough crowd to woo. However, my husband took one bit, looked amazed and said, “This is delicious!!” I looked over at my son, he was halfway through his first one and ate *another* sandwich, a rare event indeed. Thank you so much for this recipe! It’s a keeper and I have been told to make it often.

  • SloppyJoe

    YUMMM!! I don’t remember how I came across this recipe but I am SO glad I did! Made as directed, including using the cast iron skillet, but didn’t have any hamburger buns so I toasted some bread. I learned a little trick from Zaar Chef Evelyn/Athens about browning ground meat and it’s the only way I do it now. When you think it’s brown enough, cook another 5 minutes. When you think that’s done, brown another 1-2 minutes. It gets the meat so carmelized and tastey, just like the crispy edges of a real diner burger. The combination of carmelized meat and the sauce was excellent topped with mustard and pickle. Can’t wait to get some hamburger buns and do it again!!

  • Chef ‘Diva Divine

    This was easy and tasty, can't beat that!!! I am always tweeking recipes but as advised, cooked strictly according to recipe and boy, am I glad I did. Thanks for this simple, yet satisfying dish

  • taratee

    WOW!!!!!! This recipe is SO GOOD!!!!! We gobbled them down with some french fries. What a quick weeknight supper too! I’m not sure why some folks said it “tasted like browned hamburger meat”. If you follow the recipe EXACTLY as it’s written, it’s delish even with out the mustard and pickles!! Kinda sweet and a little salty-GREAT flavor. I used Angus 85/15 ground beef. I also added the tablespoon of bacon grease (I keep it in an old pickle jar in the fridge-great to have on hand) to my cast iron skillet and followed the recipe verbatum, as one should when making a first attempt at a new recipe. I browned the meat til it was a little carmelized and crusty (great tip from SloppyJoe) and buttered the rolls and toasted them in a skillet. I might try them in a buttered,toasted split-top hotdog bun next time like dlaf states in their review,especially for the kids sandwiches!! My compliments to the Original Chef!!!

  • Gramma Stubbs

    My husband grew up eating Bob’s Taverns (See reference in her introduction). I’ve spent 35 years trying to find a recipe that was as good as Bob’s. This is it! We both enjoyed it after my daughter-in-law found it and I tried it. Over Christmas I made a large batch for 25 people who all know and love Bob’s Taverns and all agreed it’s the most authentic they’ve eaten. Thanks for submitting it. The introduction is good reading, too.

  • Gjoopiter

    I’ve made this recipe several times over the years, and just wanted to say thanks!! I grew up in LeMars, the home of Bob’s Drive Inn, where you can still get a tavern (as well as a cheese tavern with American cheese (yum!!) and hot dogs with tavern meat on them), and this recipe hits the mark. Good advice on breaking up the hamburger into really small pieces, which is absolutely key. And they taste the best when served with potato chips, no kidding! I’ve changed a couple of things on the recipe (don’t drain the meat, as I use ground sirloin, don’t use as much salt, and put in about a half tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce), but you should try the original recipe first and try not to add things that really change the taste, like garlic or liquid fire. Then you’re turning a great American classic into something else! If you ever happen through LeMars, I would recommend stopping by at Bob’s for a cheese tavern and hot dog “with and pickles”. Hard to duplicate the magic they work there! 🙂

  • dlaf

    It may be sacrilege, but I serve these on hot dog buns so all of the filling doesn’t fall out onto the plate! All the yummy stays in the bun!

  • The Frugal Cheflady

    Oh sweet mercy…DELICIOUS!!!!! I wonder if those that thought it just tasted like browned hamburger didn’t use a cast iron skillet? I got rid of all my non-stick pans and use cast iron for practically everything, it really does make a difference in how food tastes! I tasted the meat before adding the vinegar, mustard and sugar, and it already had a delicious flavor that was beyond just browned ground beef. Really glad I found this recipe, I had found a few recipes for the loosemeat sandwiches referenced on the Roseanne show, but they just had meat, onions and salt. This turned out way better…my mouth was watering the whole time I was cooking them and my taste buds nearly leaped off my tongue in anticipation! They were not a bit disappointed, either. Every bit as delicious as I’d hoped they’d be…definitely worth the effort. Also, I agree with other reviewers – crisp up that ground beef, and simmer, simmer, simmer. I kept nibbling on the meat as it cooked and the flavor truly does not come into its own until the last few minutes. I’ve never been to the Blue Mill Tavern or anywhere in Iowa for that matter, but if I ever find myself there, I will make a point to seek out these delicious loosemeats! My husband said we could move to Iowa after I told him if we ever find ourselves there, I want to eat at the Blue Mill Tavern (:

  • Allie in Cali

    This is great! I am so over regular sloppy joe’s and this is a totally new flavor for a change! I tasted this one from the time I added the water until it was simmered out and if you have a problem with your meat coming out flavorless it is because you need to simmer, simmer, then simmer some more until ALL of the water is gone and turned into a nice thick syrup coating over the meat. This is an “UN-sloppy joe” you should have NO water/liquid left! this is also the only way to make the meat soft and moist. The flavor truly does not show until the very last few minutes of simmering so keep going, it is worth the wait! sooooo goood!

  • catdacek

    I grew up in Sioux City and the highlight was getting taverns from the Blue Mill… As I got older (and of age) we were allowed to have a cold schooner of beer to go with it!! Thank you so very much for the are right.. the others are not right!! Folks in Colorado think I am crazy when I talk about loosemeats so I can now share the wonderful joy of these sandwiches!! Thank you again!!